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Day 121 for Guantanamo Hunger Strikers-Joined in Solidarity by 3 Long Term Fasters in the United States
By Ann Wright
June 7, 2013 marks Day 121 of a hunger strike by at least 103 of the 166 men still imprisoned at Guantanamo. The U.S. military acknowledges that 38 are being forcibly fed twice a day by tubes snaked through their noses. Force feeding is condemned by the American Medical Association and the United Nations.
The vast majority of the 166 men have been held for more than 11 years without any charge. 86 have been cleared for release for years. http://witnesstorture.tumblr.
Of course, old people should know these things too, and some small percentage does know them, but energy seems better invested in trying to teach them to young people who have less to unlearn in the process.
1. Obedience is extremely dangerous.
This seems like it must be either wrong or misleadingly incomplete. And that would be true if we were talking about children. If a two-year-old is about to run in front of a car, please do yell "stop!" and hope for as much obedience as possible.
But I'm talking to young people, not children.
When you grow up, your obedience should always be conditional. If a master chef appears to be instructing you to prepare a revoltingly bad dinner but wants you to obey his or her instructions on faith, you might very well choose to do so, considering the risk to be tolerable. If, however, the chef tells you to chop off your little finger, and you do it, that will be a sure sign that you've got an obedience problem.
This is not a trivial or comical danger. The majority of volunteers in experiments are willing to inflict severe pain or death on other human beings when a scientist tells them to do so for the good of science. Watch this video of such an experiment.
Had the actor in this experiment who pretended to be a scientist told the participants to cut off their little fingers, I bet they wouldn't have done it. But they were willing to do far worse to someone else. The good old Golden Rule is a counter to this deficiency, but so is resistance to blind obedience. Most suffering in the world is not created by independent individuals, but by large numbers of people obeying when they should be resisting.
We should think about how not to put ourselves in positions in which we are expected to blindly obey. It is possible to find jobs that don't include that unhealthy expectation. And we should prepare ourselves to refuse immoral instructions whenever we receive them. As we'll see below, we all do receive them all the time.
2. People in power manipulate us into acceptance
Several years ago a lot of people were protesting the U.S. war in Iraq. The president and most of Congress and most of the big media outlets were busy giving out the impression that such protests were ignored or even counter-productive. But former president George W. Bush's memoirs recall the Republican Senate Majority Leader secretly telling him the pressure was becoming too great and they'd need to end the war. Bush signed an agreement with the government of Iraq to leave in three years.
In 1961 the USSR was withdrawing from a moratorium on nuclear testing. A protest at the White House urged President Kennedy not to follow suit. Posters read "Kennedy, Don't Mimic the Russians!" One protester recalled their action for decades as having been pointless and futile, until he found an oral history interview with Adrian Fisher, deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Fisher said that Kennedy had delayed resuming testing because of the protest.
A delay in a policy we oppose is not as good as a permanent ban, but if those protesters had known they were being listened to they would have come back day after day and brought their friends and possibly achieved that permanent ban. That they imagined they weren't being listened to appears ridiculous if you read enough history. People are always listened to, but those in power go to great lengths to give the impression of not paying any serious attention.
Lawrence Wittner interviewed Robert "Bud" McFarlane, President Ronald Reagan's former national security advisor, asking him whether the White House had paid much attention to protests demanding a "freeze" in nuclear weapons building. "Other administration officials had claimed that they had barely noticed the nuclear freeze movement," Wittner said. "But when I asked McFarlane about it, he lit up and began outlining a massive administration campaign to counter and discredit the freeze -- one that he had directed . . . . A month later, I interviewed Edwin Meese, a top White House staffer and U.S. attorney general during the Reagan administration. When I asked him about the administration's response to the freeze campaign, he followed the usual line by saying that there was little official notice taken of it. In response, I recounted what McFarlane had revealed. A sheepish grin now spread across this former government official's face, and I knew that I had caught him. 'If Bud says that,' he remarked tactfully, 'it must be true.'"
It's funny: even when protesting government lies or government secrecy, people tend to fall for the lie that the government is ignoring you. Yet, in 2011, when a relatively tiny movement began to take to the streets under the banner of "Occupy," the government rolled out a massive effort of infiltration, eavesdropping, harassment, brutality, and propaganda -- while, of course, claiming to have noticed nothing and done nothing about something so unworthy of notice.
Those in power don't restrict themselves to directing you toward inaction. They also work on moving you toward doing lots of things that seem effective but aren't. The way to keep the nation safe, they say, is to go shopping! Or lobby for this watered-down pathetic piece of legislation! Or devote all your activist energy to election campaigning, and then go home and collapse in exhaustion as soon as the election is over -- exactly when you should be gearing up to demand actions out of whoever won the election. These activities that have little impact are depicted as serious and effective, while activities that historically have had tremendous real impact (organizing, educating, demonstrating, protesting, lobbying, heckling, shaming, nonviolently resisting, producing art and entertainment, creating alternative structures) are depicted as disreputable and ineffective and lacking in seriousness.
Of course, being active is much more fun than not. Of course, the influence you have is always possible even if undetected (you might inspire a child who goes on to do great things years later, or slightly win over an opponent who takes a few more years to see the light). Of course, we have a moral duty to do everything we can regardless of the ease of success. But I'm convinced we'd see a lot more activism if people knew how much they are listened to. So tell them! And let's remember to keep telling ourselves.
3. Doing nothing is obeying a deadly order
Imagine writing a story about a village that faces possible destruction, and for the most part the people don't do anything to prevent it.
That's not how stories are written.
That's the world we live in and fail to recognize.
We are being instructed to sit at a desk and zap the earth to death, and we're compliantly zapping away. Only the zapping doesn't look like zapping, it looks like living. We work and eat and sleep and play and garden and buy junk at the store and watch movies and go to baseball games and read books and make love, and we don't imagine we can possibly be destroying a planet. What are we, the Death Star?
But a sin of omission is morally and effectively equivalent to a sin of commission. We need to be saving the earth and we're not doing so. We're allowing global warming and other major environmental destruction to roll ahead. We're allowing militarization and warmaking to advance. We're watching the concentration of wealth. We see the division of society into castes. We know we're building prisons and drones and highways and pipelines while closing schools and condemning our grandparents to poverty. We are aware that we're funding multi-billionaires with our hard work while fueling mass suffering, bitterness, rage, frustration, and violence.
We see these worsening cycles and we sit still.
Don't sit still.
Sitting still is mass-murder.
Don't obey anyone who tells you to sit still.
Don't search for a leader.
Don't sell your conscience to a group or a slogan or a political party.
Don't listen to me unless something I say makes sense.
Solidarity Statement with the People of Turkey from WRL's Facing Tear Gas Campaign
Over the past several days, Turkey has seen some of its largest mass mobilizations in years. Protesters are pouring into Taksim Square, Gezi Park, and other public spaces throughout the country in the thousands to reject neoliberalism and government-backed urban gentrification. As they brave vomit-inducing tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and live ammunition, it is clear that the people of Turkey are demanding much more than simply the conservation of Istanbul’s precious remaining green space. Rather, what we are witnessing in Turkey is a broad movement of people from various classes, ages, religious sects, and political backgrounds calling for real democracy. It is also imperative to contextualize this recent uprising as a continuation of many struggles that Turkish citizens have undertaken for years around economic justice, rights of minorities (including the Kurdish people), and resistance to mandatory military service.
Since 2010, the uprisings in the Arab world catalyzed a chain reaction of revolutionary change across the globe that shook dictatorships and repressive governments at their core. Turkey is no exception to this, and as members of the Facing Tear Gas Campaign, we are moved and inspired by this growing new movement.
However, we have also borne witness to immense amounts of military and police attacks on nonviolent protestors, including the use of tear gas and related chemical weapons as tools of war on protest, free speech, and democratic movements. In Istanbul, there is evidence of tear gas coming from at least two U.S. companies— Defense Technology (Casper, WY) and Nonlethal Technologies (Homer, PA)— and one Brazilian company, Condor Non-Lethal Technologies (Rio de Janeiro). Together, these companies manufacture the tear gas used to hurt people and repress popular movements in Egypt, Bahrain, Palestine, the United States, Greece, Canada, and now Turkey. Additionally, there are reports of Turkish law enforcement directly shooting civilians with tear gas canisters, which can cause injury or death.
If you are in Turkey (or know people who are), please contribute your experience toward our collective effort to end the use of tear gas. Please save and photograph any gas canisters or incidents of their use, and let our campaign know. This is the best way to expose the companies providing chemical weapons to the Turkish military and police. Share your story on our Facing Tear Gas Tumblr, follow us on Twitter @resistwar, tweet using the hashtags #teargas or #chemicalgas, or email us at facingteargas@warresisters.
The Facing Tear Gas Campaign salutes the peoples of Turkey and the world in solidarity with this growing movement. As the protests grow across various cities across Turkey, including at the capital Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Diyarbakir and beyond, the slogan “Taksim is everywhere, resistance is everywhere” resonates across the globe. Indeed, Taksim reminds us that another world is on its way, one free of weapons, militarism, and state violence, and toward a truly dignified freedom.
To my friends who live outside of Turkey:
I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.
Four days ago a group of people who did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.
They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.
But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.
In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.
They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:
The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the tanks and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd. After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.
These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.
On top of all that, the government control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.
People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.
What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.
Yet they still march. Hundred of thousands join them. Couple of more thousand passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim.
No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.
Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3g networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.
People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul.
Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.
As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:
«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»
This blog is my answer to her.
By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:
Freedom of expression and speech,
Respect for human rights,
Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,
The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.
But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!
Please spread the word and share this blog.
For futher info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help
Nathaniel Batchelder is a Vietnam veteran and has been director of the Peace House Oklahoma City since 1990 – a center for public education on justice, peace and environmental issues.
Natan Blanc (with thanks to Yesh Gvul)This morning, the Israeli military's Exemption Committee declared Israeli conscientious objector Natan Blanc unfit for duty, six months after he initially reported to the induction centre and declared his refusal.
You can send an email to Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, welcoming the fact that Natan will no longer be imprisoned, but urging him to ensure that in future COs are not treated similarly here: http://wri-irg.org/node/21852
Natan's prison sentences have been 10, 20, 14, 14, 20, 18, 20, 14, 20 and 28 days long respectively. This exemption follows his second appeal for exemption. His first was refused.
Hear Natan speak about why he refuses to join the Israeli military here.
You can also read Natan's refusal declaration in full here.
In April, Israeli CO group New Profile put out a statement alongside No to Compulsory Military Service in Egypt in support of Natan as well as Eyptian COs. The statement is here: Joint Statement: Freedom to Conscientious Objectors in the Middle East. In the photo you can see Natan holding photos of these Egyptian COs.
Continue supporting for COs
Please write to Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, calling upon him to ensure that COs in future do not endure the imprisonments and repeated punishments. You can do so here.
Please also consider sharing the CO-Alert sign up with your friends and contacts. COs around the world continue to be persecuted, and CO-Alerts are a unique way of raising awareness of these cases. Visit this page to be added to subscribe: http://lists.wri-irg.org/
War Resisters' International
By Alfredo Lopez
Toward the end of Roman Polanski's masterpiece "Chinatown" an exchange takes place between "hero" Jake Gittes and the super-rich Noah Cross when Gittes finally realizes that Cross has seized control of Los Angeles' water supply.
"I just wanna know what you're worth," Gittes explains. "More than 10 million?
Monsanto: Profits Above Human Health
by Stephen Lendman
On May 25, tens of thousands of people marched against Monsanto. They did so in dozens of countries worldwide. They had good reason.
They want consumer protections enacted. They want safe food to eat. They want governments assuring it. They want GMO foods and ingredients labeled.
By Ann Wright
The city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee and its neighbor Knoxville, are government towns. Oak Ridge has been called “the closed city,” reminiscent of government cities in the old Soviet Union that were closed to the public because of sensitive weapons production and other activities Soviets wanted to keep from prying eyes. In the case of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the U.S. government wants to keep the production of nuclear bombs and their components away from public scrutiny.
Oak Ridge is a tough place to challenge the biggest employer in the area, a southern town where dissent is abnormal and prejudices of all sorts run deep in the culture and heritage.
(Look for a large colorful banner and people wearing prison-style orange jumpsuits.)
Seventy-one-year-old S. Brian Willson, a Viet Nam veteran member of Veterans For Peace, Portland Chapter 72, beginning Sunday, May 12 reduced his food intake by more than 85 percent, fasting on 300 calories a day in solidarity with the 130 uncharged Guantanamo prisoner hunger strikers now in deteriorating health, many of whom are being force-fed. Willson, a trained lawyer and criminologist, anti-war activist and author, lives by the mantra: “We are not worth more; They are not worth less.” He joins 65-year-old grandmother Diane Wilson, a fifth-generation Texas shrimper, anti-war activist and author, who began an open-ended, water-only fast on May 1 outside the White House, and intends to fast until the prisoners are freed. There are more than 1,200 people around the country participating in a rolling hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of the fasting prisoners at Guantanamo, who have been illegally detained for over ten years with little recourse. May 16 is the 100th day of the hunger strike. The hunger strike/fast demands President Obama take immediate action to close the prison and release the prisoners.
Colonel Morris Davis, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and one-time Chief Prosecutor for the terrorism trials at Guantanamo, has collected 200,000 signatures to be submitted to the White House, appealing to President Obama to close the Medieval detention center.*
A total 166 prisoners from 25 countries remain housed in the U.S.-constructed and operated gulag (2002) at Guantanamo, located on Cuban soil without Cuba’s permission. Most have been jailed and tortured for eleven years without charges, without trials, with no contact with families, and only limited legal counsel when lawyers persist to overcome military obstruction. Although the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, its maltreatment of these detainees openly violates international laws and its own Constitution.
Currently as many as 130 of the prisoners are on a hunger strike in protest of their medieval conditions. Stripped of their dignity, their bodies are the only place where they retain some control, yet even this is taken away as their U.S. captors have induced force-feeding to keep them alive in their misery. The American Medical Association and the World Medical Association both declared that force-feeding of competent patients/prisoners is in violation of international law.
These prisoners' names and home countries are now identified. Eighty-six of them were cleared for release several years ago, yet remain incarcerated. Fifty-six of these are from Yemen and President Obama has imposed a ban on releasing them. President Obama could use his bully leverage to close Guantanamo and release all the prisoners, despite his blaming Congress. U.S. Professor of Law Marjorie Cohn describes forced feeding as follows:
“They strap you to a chair, tie up your wrists, your legs, your forehead and tightly around the waist,” Fayiz Al-Kandari told his lawyer, Lt. Col. Barry Wingard. Al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti held at Guantanamo for 11 years, has never been charged with a crime. “The tube makes his eyes water excessively and blood begins to trickle from the nose. Once the tube passes his throat the gag reflex kicks in. Warm liquid is poured into the body for 45 minutes to two hours. He feels like his body is going to convulse and often vomits,” Wingard added. ["Death is Preferable to Life at Obama's Guantanamo," Global Research, news site of Centre for Research on Globalization, May 10, 2013. http://www.globalresearch.ca/death-is-preferable-to-life-at-obamas-guantanamo/5334556]
The larger context: Of the 2,300,000 prisoners warehoused in 9,000 U.S. jails and prisons, nearly 1,400,000 are racial and ethnic minorities. As many as 80,000 are held in solitary confinement. More than 30,000 immigrants are languishing in indefinite detention. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture has concluded that physical isolation of 22-24 hours one day or longer for young people constitutes cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. Force-feeding is not unique to Guantanamo; some U.S. prisoners are routinely and systematically force fed. The U.S. possesses but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, owning the highest per capita detention rate of any country in the world.
The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out with Hit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com
This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.
The Catonsville action received so much publicity that it had something of an Occupy effect. That is, others who felt the same way about the slaughter of the Vietnamese people but didn't believe they could do anything, suddenly began doing something. Some did very similar actions. Others tried their own approaches to the same problem. Catonsville Nine inspired other tactics, enlarged marches and rallies, and generally moved the peace movement forward. The creativity and novelty of the action even made people think about the war who hadn't before.
Draft records were destroyed, preventing the drafting of those people. So, this was substantive resistance that couldn't be undone. At the same time it was educational and inspirational. It didn't inspire sadistic shouts of "Bin Laden's dead!" It inspired people to act on their moral outrage. There were over 100 actions taken at draft boards over the next few years. Many thousands of people's draft records were destroyed, saving them from the draft and saving those they would have killed from that fate. Some of the draft offices were shut down permanently. In the end the Selective Service declared it was under assault, and Nixon declared that the military would now be volunteer.
Some of the actions went after FBI offices and U.S. attorneys offices. Activists never yet apprehended stole COINTELPRO documents and sent them to the media, exposing the FBI's abuses and creating a major news story that lasted until it was overshadowed by the Pentagon Papers -- released by Dan Ellsberg, himself inspired by the activism shown in Hit and Stay. The people shown engaging in these actions are, in many cases, still active today -- although they look a bit older. In other cases, their sons and daughters are still involved.
The name "Hit and Stay" comes from the method of engaging in civil disobedience (or civil resistance for those who prefer to point to laws being upheld through the violation of other laws deemed less important) and then staying at the scene of the crime to take responsibility. This was a communications strategy, not a masochistic drive toward suffering. Some of the Catonsville Nine went into hiding to avoid their trial and remain active, even after having stood still long enough to be arrested and charged.
The film shows us the Milwaukee 14, the DC 9 who went after the Dow Chemical Company, and the New York 8. The New York activists hit more than one location and chose not to stay. Instead, they held a press conference to claim responsibility without identifying who was at which location or agreeing to answer questions. They were not prosecuted.
We see the Boston 2, the Rhode Island Political Offensive For Freedom (RIPOFF) -- modeled after the New York 8. We see the Rochester Flower City Conspiracy, the Buffalo, the Camden 28. That last one was encouraged, assisted, and then busted by an informant, but in the trial the judge allowed defense witnesses including people like Howard Zinn. The jury nullified the law by acquitting defendants who openly admitted to their actions. The jury joined in singing "Amazing Grace," and the foreman threw a party for the defendants.
Activists have not entirely figured out how to counter the brilliant move of creating a "volunteer" poverty draft, but neither has it shut down resistance in quite the way as is generally imagined. The stories of these long-ago actions and so many thousands of actions since still inspire. And resistance is in many ways greater now. Wars are protested before they even start, and sometimes prevented from starting. There is much to inspire us in independent media reports of nonviolent actions today, but I suspect this movie has the power to inspire us further.
By Stephen C. Webster - Raw Story
An 83-year-old nun who broke into a Tennessee depleted uranium storage facility in 2012 and splashed human blood on several surfaces, exposing a massive security hole at the nation’s only facility used to store radioactive conventional munitions, was convicted Wednesday and sentenced to a term of up to 20 years in prison.
The only regret Sister Megan Rice shared with members of her jury on Wednesday was that she wished 70 years hadn’t passed before she took direct action, according to the BBC. She and two other peace activists, 64-year-old Michael Walli and 56-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed, were convicted of “invasion of a nuclear facility” in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, even though investigators admitted they did not get close to any actual nuclear material.
The three activists are part of a group called “Transform Now Plowshares,” a reference to the book of Isaiah, which says, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. They shall learn war no more.” All three face individual sentences of up to 20 years, along with a litany of fines.
As they invaded the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, a perimeter fence was cut, several surfaces were spray-painted, banners were hung and activists read from the Bible. They also spread human blood on several surfaces, saying its use was symbolic, meant to remind people “of the horrific spilling of blood by nuclear weapons.”
“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” the activists’ attorney, Francis Lloyd, told members of the jury according to the BBC. “You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me.”
Sister Rice has been arrested between 40 or 50 times committing acts of civil disobedience, according to The New York Times, including once in Nevada after she physically blocked a truck at a nuclear test site.
Depleted uranium munitions like the kind stored at the facility Sister Rice targeted are blamed for some of the worst birth defects and soaring cancer rates seen in post-war Iraq, particularly in the city of Fallujah following the siege of 2004, in which U.S. soldiers killed thousands of civilians.
The city has never recovered, particularly from the use of depleted uranium munitions, and to this day residents suffer from health effects “worse” than those seen following the nuclear detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
“I believe we are all equally responsible to stop a known crime,” Sister Rice said from the witness stand, according to quotes published by her group. She called herself a “citizen of the world” and reportedly smiled as the verdict was read.
This video is from ABC News, aired August 2, 2012.
It took a jury about 2 ½ hours to find the three protesters guilty of a charge of sabotaging the plant and second charge of damaging federal property in July the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge in July.
Defense attorneys said in closing arguments that federal prosecutors had overreached in the charges because of the embarrassment caused by the break-in.
This past Saturday morning felt like mid-winter in Asheville, North Carolina, but was actually some weeks past tax day, and dozens of people were gathered in front of a federal building to say something about what federal income taxes are used for -- something much more unusual than one would expect.
Posters carried messages including: "War steals from the poor" and "Defund Militerrorism." This in itself was not so unusual. Opponents of war often use tax season to inform their friends and neighbors that roughly half of income tax dollars go to war preparation. We could have the educations and health and happiness that other nations have if we didn't waste our money on the military, we say. We'd have more and better jobs, and jobs we could feel better about, we tell people.
If only our taxes weren't put to such bad ends.
But the people gathered from across the country in Asheville on Saturday were in town for a meeting of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. They had gathered on Saturday morning to announce the awarding of grants of thousands of dollars to a long list of great humanitarian causes -- all the things we wish our taxes were going to. For these people, this is in fact what their taxes are going to. Many of them have put the dollars they owe in taxes into one of a number of funds set up for this purpose. They can take their money back if they choose, but meanwhile the interest it earns goes to worthy causes of their choosing in the form of these grants announced in something more like a celebration than the usual tax-day lamentation that war opponents are all familiar with.
Following the announcements in front of the federal building, the small crowd stretched out in a long single-file line walking through Asheville, posters held high, making a tour of locations in the lives of the homeless and destitute, locations in need of the money that went to buy the bombs Israel was just then dropping on Syria.
This is part 2 of the workshop. Part two is the discussion portion of the workshop and it is an audio file.
Related Rochester Indymedia articles: Anti-Drone Banner Drop in Syracuse, NY | 31 protesters arrested for blocking drone base | Bruce Gagnon: Stop the Militarization and Nuclearization of Space! | Sarah AK Ahmed, an Iraqi, grew up through Two Decades of War | An interview with Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Nonviolence | Hancock Drone Resisters Found Guilty; Sentencing is April 24 | On Guard! Your Government Isn't Trustworthy! An interview with Col. (ret.) Ann Wright | We Can Make Change - Debra Sweet Interviewed | Stopping the Billionaires, the Bombers, and the War Machine--an interview with David Swanson | Everyone Must Resist! An interview with Elliott Adams | Nick Mottern Discusses Drone Warfare and His Consciousness Raising Efforts | 10 Years Ago: Hundreds say no to US aggression | Martin Luther King: "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" | Anti-Drone Protest Draws Police Attention | Anti-Drone Demonstrators Return to Brighton | Anti-NATO coverage by Rochester Indymedia in Chicago | From Disney to Drone Wars - a critical settler perspective | Anti-Drone Demonstration Draws Hundreds; 37 Arrested for Civil Disobedience
By Bruce K. Gagnon, www.space4peace.org
I was honored to be involved in the weekend drone conference and protest in Syracuse, New York organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. I've just returned home after spending Sunday night in jail (with maybe one hour of sleep) and the long eight-hour drive back to Maine. So my mind is slipping a few gears, my wrists still hurt after about 11 hours of wearing handcuffs, but my heart and soul feel strong from the experience.
The drone conference began on Friday evening at a local community center in the Syracuse black community. More than 200 folks showed up for the event that featured some of the great activists from around the county like Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Charley King, Mark Johnson, Elliott Adams, Howie Hawkins, Nick Mottern, Joe Lombardo, the Grady sisters, Tighe Barry, Debra Sweet and a large delegation of Veterans for Peace members from many states.
I spoke Saturday morning on a plenary panel along with Kathy Kelly and David Swanson. This gave me the chance to put drones into the larger context of US strategy and space technology development that is being used to advance the "interests" of corporate globalization and their effort to control resources around the planet. I suggested that we might think of military space satellites as being the "triggers" that makes it possible for drones to fire their deadly "Hellfire" missiles that frequently kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
In addition I did a workshop entitled "Full Spectrum Dominance" that allowed me the time to thoroughly cover the nuclearization and weaponization of space issues.
On Sunday morning we gathered for a meeting on the planned civil resistance action later that day at Hancock Air Field from where the "Reaper" drone is flown over Afghanistan by military personnel sitting in front of computer terminals at the base - all hooked up by military satellites and Space Command down-link stations spread around the world.
Hundreds gathered in Dallas to reject the Bush Lie Bury, and three went to jail. I flew from Dallas to Syracuse, where hundreds protested Obama's drone-murder program, and 32 went to jail and are still there (and will stay until trial unless bail can be raised) -- some of them risk major jail time because they violated a protective order that the commander of a U.S. military base gained to protect himself from nonviolent peace activists. Another drone protester in Missouri, Brian Terrell, is just finishing a six-month sentence. Climate activist Tim DeChristopher just got out. The people locked in Guantanamo are refusing to eat, and groups around the world are making plans to fast with them. The people of Vieques are rallying on May 1st to demand that the U.S. military truly depart their island. Big plans are being made to rally for Bradley Manning on June 1st. This week I'm heading to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's meeting in North Carolina, after which -- just over in Tennessee -- three courageous activists go on trial, facing major time in prison, for having entered and protested a nuclear weapons facility.
The revolution will not be televised.
Oak Ridge, Tenn., was created during World War II as a secret city (actually two, it was segregated by race) for producing nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have a history that marches hand-in-hand with U.S. human experimentation programs. I just had a chance to read Susan Griffin's A Chorus of Stones, and she recounts a nuclear test in 1957, when the U.S. government was still marching Marines to various distances from nuclear explosions in Nevada to find out what would become of them. Marines with their eyes closed saw the bones in their hands. They died of leukemia years later, but not before speaking about what else they saw: 10 or 12 people in a stockade formed by chain link fence and barbed wire, their faces and hands deformed, their hair falling out, their skin peeling off. Or this: men on the ground in agony, the smell of burning flesh, blood running from mouth, ears, and nose, a man trying to tear away wires that had been attached to his head.
In the late 1960s, Oak Ridge Associated Universities did radiation experiments on cancer patients, children of military personnel. NASA provided the funding, wanting to know how much radiation would produce nausea, in preparation for sending astronauts to the moon. And, boy, having sent astronauts to the moon has sure allowed us to take care of poverty and illness and environmental destruction. I don't know how we'd survive at all if we hadn't killed those children to send astronauts to the moon.
On July 28, 2012, Michael R. Walli (63), Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge undetected. You can't walk down the street without being filmed, but these three senior citizens were able to walk at night right up to a nuclear weapons facility. They hung up banners that read "Transform Now Plowshares" and "Swords into Plowshares Spears into Pruning Hooks–Isaiah." They strung up red crime tape. They hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF), splashed human blood and left four spray-painted tags on the recent construction which read: "Woe to the empire of blood," "The fruit of justice is peace," "Work for peace not for war," and "Plowshares please Isaiah." When finally confronted by guards, they offered the guards bread and roses. They sang while forced to kneel for a long period of time.
"We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war," the activists said in a statement. "Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building."
Vigils and other events are planned in Knoxville as the trial begins.
While the revolution is not televised, there is a calendar of events: http://warisacrime.org/content/upcoming-events
The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 - $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council,note : Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
UPDATE: The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 - $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council,note : Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
275 People at Protest; 31 Arrested
DeWitt (NY) town court Judge Robert Jokl sentenced five Hancock drone resisters April 24 for peacefully blocking the main entrance of Hancock air field last October 5. Jim Clume, Brian Hynes, Ed Kinane and Mark Scibilia-Carver all were sentenced to fifteen days in jail and $125 Court surcharge. Julienne Oldfield was sentenced to 50 hours of community service, the $125 surcharge and given a one year conditional discharge.
Judge Jokl found the five guilty of “trespass” in an April 18 bench trial. The five were among ten who had attempted to deliver a citizens’ indictment to the Hancock base commander and personnel for ongoing war crimes being perpetrated with weaponized hunter/killer Reaper drones over Afghanistan.
Noting that the October 5 defendants weren’t disobeying the law, but rather seeking to enforce international law, defendant Jim Clune told Judge Jokl, “We have no need to work at cross purposes here. Law is a wonderful instrument when it safeguards and promotes life, and it should be used for that purpose.”
The October 5 action is one of a half dozen such initiatives at Hancock by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots group opposing Reaper war crimes.
Those sentenced tonight: Jim Clune of Binghamton, Brian Hynes of the Bronx, Ed Kinane of Syracuse, Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg.
By Sally McMillan
As we work through our shock and grief over the bombings at the Boston Marathon, as we express our admiration for the courageous response of the people of Boston to this tragedy, as we watch the ongoing tv broadcasts about the manhunt, as we praise the work of police, FBI, firefighters, and other first responders to these events, let’s also take a little time to reflect on the “why” as well as on the “who” and the “who else” of what happened.
This is an important question. President Obama raised it when he said, “ Why would two young men who were raised in the United States and went to school here do this kind of thing?” We could also ask, “What have they not been learning here in the United States that would have deterred them from committing this action?”
By Brian Terrell
In the final weeks of a six month prison sentence for protesting remote control murder by drones, specifically from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, I can only reflect on my time of captivity in light of the crimes that brought me here. In these ominous times, it is America’s officials and judges and not the anarchists who exhibit the most flagrant contempt for the rule of law and it is due to the malfeasance of these that I owe the distinction of this sabbatical.
As I share in the perspectives gained from residing in the federal prison camp in Yankton, South Dakota, it is important to disclose that as a political prisoner sent up on trumped misdemeanor charges for a few months, my situation is not the same as my fellow inmates! All nonviolent “offenders”, most by far are prisoners of the war on drugs and most are serving sentences of many years. I also try to avoid the temptation to exaggerate the hardships and privations I’ve suffered here. Certainly, doing time in a minimum security camp is easier time than in most other kinds of jails. If basic necessities are barely met, they are met. I am in good company and time is passing with little drama and without fear. For me, these months have been more a test of patience than of courage.
Still, this is a hard place to be in many ways and it would be wrong to minimize what people suffer here. Among these are the basic humiliation of being numbered and then counted at intervals through the day, frequent shakedowns, random frisks (stranger’s fingers fumbling with a lacerated heart, Solzhenitsyn remembered) and strip searches, separation from family and friends, severely limited visits, intercepted mail and interrupted phone calls, incessant noise and overcrowding, petty rules arbitrarily enforced.
The regime here is one of omnipresent and unrelieved bureaucracy. What I am experiencing over a few months as inconvenience and minor irritation, cumulative over years can amount to a crushing and ruinous burden.
“A concentration camp is the complete obliteration of privacy,” wrote Czech novelist Milan Kundera. It is “a world in which people live crammed together constantly, night and day. Brutality and violence are secondary, and not the least indispensible characteristics.”
At Yankton and in camps and prisons like it, the federal government has achieved the complete obliteration of privacy as the drug war has increased America’s already bloated prison population sevenfold over the last twenty years. No country locks up more of its citizens for so long sentences as the United States and it can be said, too, that the government is taking strides to extend the obliteration of privacy to the general population.
What the government has not been able to accomplish by locking up suspected drug users and dealers by the thousands is any reduction in addiction or in the sale and use of illegal drugs. There is little doubt that jailing drug related “criminals” causes more and not less drug use and crime and yet the so-called criminal justice system is expending an increasingly greater fortune in human and material resources on prisons, contrary to the ends of public safety or rehabilitation.
Before he retired, President Eisenhower warned of the emergence of a self-perpetuating “military industrial complex” producing weapons and provoking conflict for the sake of ensuring a market for more weapons. Likewise, America is increasingly in the grip of what some call a “prison industrial complex,” building and filling prisons for the purpose of ensuring fodder for more prisons.
The United States government does not run its foreign policy on any more enlightened or humane premise than it does its prisons.
The refrain “we are creating enemies faster than we are killing (or capturing) them” is a bit of truth that gets leaked to the media occasionally in recent years. Sometimes the sentiment is voiced by even the most senior military commanders and applied variously to any of several strategies, including night raids in Afghanistan, check points in Iraq, the prison at Guantánamo, and drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan.
As with prisons, United States military and diplomatic policies run contrary to their stated objectives of peace and public safety and yet they persist with little question. Prisons and the military, America’s dominant institutions, exist not to bring healing to domestic ills or relief for foreign threats but to exacerbate and manipulate them for the profit of the wealthiest few, at great cost and peril for the rest of us.
One of many discouraging moments of the presidential campaign that ended just before I surrendered to authorities here in November, was in a debate where Mr. Obama stated that Americans need to “decide for themselves” whose sanctions against Iran would be “more crippling,” his or Mr. Romney’s. This was an obscene and unacceptable choice.
Sanctions are portrayed as a diplomatic alternative to war but in their application can be as lethal, warfare by another name. Sanctions that extend beyond trade in armaments to include embargoes on food, medicine, educational materials, and other necessities of life can constitute weapons of mass destruction in themselves.
It is often said that such comprehensive and indiscriminant sanctions make prisons of the countries targeted with them. While the regime of sanctions against inmates here at Yankton is less severe than the brutal conditions I witnessed in Iraq in 1998 or that the United States imposes on the people of Iran or Gaza (by proxy), the comparison is apt. Sanctions and prisons are both about imposing economic and social isolation and both can raise levels of tension and fear when applied without conscience.
Meaningful employment, decent housing, support of loved ones, education and self-respect would be helpful responses to the scourge of addiction and the crimes that ensue from it. Providing these for people at risk would be a priority for a responsible society but all these are robbed from inmates in federal prisons. Threats of war and terrorism are provoked by sanctions and invasions and can be countered only by addressing root causes.
“What father,” Jesus asked, “would give a stone to a child who asks for bread?” We know the answer and it is to our shame.
“The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As resources dwindle, the climate warms and nuclear arms proliferate, even more clearly now than in King’s time, “the choice is between non-violence and non-existence.”
The quality of life and the very existence of all of us depends on the security and well being of each person, especially of those we label criminal or enemy. The admonition from the Hebrew book of Proverbs to give food to our enemies when they are hungry and drink to them when they are thirsty, echoed in the Sermon on the Mount and the universal Golden Rule to treat others as we would be treated is no romantic, unobtainable dream. “Love is the only solution” to the human predicament, said Dorothy Day. Love in our time has become a hard, pragmatic, gritty requisite for survival.
Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker and Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence will be released from prison on May 24, 2013. After that he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On April 18, in Dewitt (NY) Town Court, Judge Robert Jokl found five Reaper Drone resisters guilty of trespass at Hancock Air Base. The five were among ten who last October 5 peacefully blocked the main entrance of the base as they attempted to deliver a citizens’ indictment [ http://upstatedroneaction.org/
The five – who had defended themselves without attorney representation – must return to court at 6 pm, Wednesday, April 24 for sentencing. Noting that the defendants on October 5 weren’t disobeying the law, but rather seeking to enforce international law, defendant Jim Clune told Judge Jokl, “We have no need to work at cross purposes here. Law is a wonderful instrument when it safeguards and promotes life, and it should be used for that purpose.”
A sixth defendant, Martha Hennessey, a New York City Catholic Worker, was found not guilty in absentia.
The October 5 action is one of a half dozen such initiatives at Hancock by Upstate Drone Action [www.upstatedroneaction. org], a grassroots group opposing Reaper war crimes.
Those standing trial were
~ Jim Clune of Binghamton….Brian Hynes of the Bronx….Ed Kinane of Syracuse….Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse….Mark Scibilia-Carver of Trumansburg
Getting involved versus Calls For Vengeance Citizen First-Responders: Models For Responsible Democracy
By John Grant
I write a lot of critical things about militarism, our unnecessary wars and our growing surveillance/police state. So it was heartwarming to watch the videos and listen to the stories from the Boston Marathon bombing about civilian “first-responders” who chose not to flee but to wade into a very messy situation.
By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques
Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot. On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed. People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.
There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests. But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez. That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world. A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested. The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003. Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.
A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.
Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico. It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.
But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.
An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions. This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with.
Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.
In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities.
Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island. Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet. There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well. You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.
For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque. The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees. In 1493, the conquistadors arrived. In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident. Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.
From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar. English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane. They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike. The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917. The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.
In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners. Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves. The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses. Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.
Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30. Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.
From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques. Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN. Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea. Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.
The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.
The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer. According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women. Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped. A boy was killed by gang rape. Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women. A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing. And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead. Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing: "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years. It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house. We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening. When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me. In the school, you could hear the bombing. You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise. People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years. It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."
A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order. We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.
But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today. The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people. There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island. The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.
There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities. There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind. Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes. Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy. All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island. Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water. Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.
With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food. Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans. But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.
Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques." But that promise remains unfulfilled.
Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,
"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates. The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East. The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.
"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques. An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."
". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade. We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."
People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:
"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:
"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases. Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health. Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.
"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy. Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance. Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.
"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.
"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques. Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."
For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.
Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group. She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities. Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .